"Dating Amongst Tweens" tackled the subject of how, when and if dating should begin among our kids. Often there is some version of "dating" beginning in late elementary or early middle school (known as the tween years), so it's never too early to start figuring out your philosphy!
Your opinion will be needed sooner than you'd think.
Girls want to feel loved. Every girl wants to know that she is desirable. That may be a main motive for girls wanting to date.
A girl may find herself suddenly in a situation she didn't plan on. Say a middle school girl is innocently strolling around the school hallways, unawares. Before she heads into 5th hour, a boy delivers the message that his friend, who happens to be the guy that all the girls admire, likes her and wants to know if she likes him back. Flustered, and now flattered, this girl has felt the thrill and excitement of being wanted, picked out of a crowd, desired.
That can be an emotion that is heady and takes over reason. My husband has said this to our girls in the past...."There will come a day a guy will like you. It will feel amazing. But here's the clue, you don't have to do anything about it."
I think this is smart because if the above scenario happens, the girl feels giddy and ecstatic, then has to make a decision. What do I answer? Then comes the question, will I be his girlfriend? If she's thought about it prior and isn't caught off guard, she may realize "Wow, it really does feel great...and I think I'll just enjoy it feeling great. I don't think I'm ready to do anything about it." (Or she may yell YES, but we can hope).
The reality though? If all the girls are in love with him, the relationship probably won't last long and he'll just add you to a list of girls conquered.
On the flip side, some girls now are putting undue pressure on boys at an early age. When they are "dating", suddenly the girl is shooting the evil eye at other girls who simply look in his direction. He's not allowed to have friends that are girls. One girl said "Girls often mistake having a conversation with flirting." Do we really own other people like that? Where they aren't allowed to talk to other people?
I asked several dads for their opinions on tween dating (ages 11-12 ish).
I asked about dating during tween and early teen years. What I got was largely anti-dating answers, regardless of what stage of teen years we are referring to. (I'm happy to post a dad's opinion who is pro dating, I just haven't been able to find one!) None of these people who gave opinions are against dating entirely, they are just wary of dating before marrying is actually an option. And apparently, they know boys better than we moms do, having been one before.
Here are their thoughts:
"As a teacher and a dad of three girls, I'm totally against dating in the forms that I have seen. I don't want my daughters wrapped up into one person either emotionally or physically. They can go on dates to dances and such. Dating seems to awaken things in kids both male and female long before it is time. Definitely okay with dating in college and maybe late high school, depending on my daughter and the guy. What I tell my high school students is all kids are stupid when it comes to dating in high school so don't date." (I wish you could know this dad to "hear" him saying that last line. He is so fun and loved by teens, and connects with them instantly. Besides being a public school teacher, he has spent years in youth ministry, so he sees alot.)
"Girls basically want to feel loved and guys want to feel respected/have their ego filled. Guys probably love the hunt to make a girl like him more than the actual girl herself. It's more competition and a hunt, enjoying the power to make someone like you, more than the actual person. The girl is thinking it's all romantic and personal, and is doodling her first name with his last, and he's just happy to have someone cool to hang out with at the football game Friday night."
"I am not particularly open to my 13 year old daughters dating. It is no commentary on their maturity. However, I don't see the point or value of such relationships when they must be prohibited from running their course. Since this is the case, I can see no good excuse for them to subject themselves to the anguish of love lost, etc. Nor the pressure to behave in ways they ought not."
"Dating too early is almost guaranteed disappointment. You'll most likely end up taking hits on self esteem, and become an unintended victim."
One dad says he remembers being in 6th grade. His entire goal was to touch a boobie. It didn't matter whose boobie, anyone's would do. His girlfriend I guess would be the first one who allowed him to touch her boobie? That's deep. Haha. But honest.
"If a guy gets dumped, he probably doesn't care nearly as much as the girl would if she got dumped. His ego is probably hurt more than his heart."
"Girls look for relationship, boys look for opportunity. That's why guys can move on so easily. If a girl doesn't want to do something, he'll move on to the next one who will give him an opportunity."
(This last one is deep if you think about it. Girls should perhaps not feel quite so flattered in those times that boys are just seeking anyone willing. What happens is sometimes girls give in to things because they think they have to to keep the boy. That may be true- if it is, is that the kind of relationship you want? He's not after you, just what you can give him? The only fix for that is girls having high enough value and identity to not give into this. Hopefully parents of guys are teaching them that girls aren't just to meet their needs, but valued as people. And vice versa. Dating is best after kids have grown up enough to understand the value of other people.)
"Relationships in teen years usually cost more than they are worth. The risk outweights the benefit. There may be some value, but usually there's little value."
"From experience, boys are generally too immature to come close to meeting a girls' expectations. It's difficult at 42, I'm just figuring it out. Guaranteed a 14 year old guy doesn't know what he's doing. Girls tend to be surprised when disappointment happens, or when a guy is disappointing, but it shouldn't be surprising."
"If you can make it through high school without a boyfriend or girlfriend, I truly believe you'll be a healthier, more whole person".
This conversation happened referring to older teens and college aged dating, but they said, "Ya gotta date through the chemical phase. Aren't there love chemicals that get released that make us all lovey dovey and crazy? Definitely gotta date long enough for the love drug to wear off. Then see."
Here's what's helpful about the dad opinion. They are typically not emotionally involved in decisions, as we moms can be. They are protectors and logical. So often they can see things more clearly than we can, because they don't wrap themselves up in the process, but just call it like they see it. We do have to work together at times and he may need to hear some of our side to understand other things, but for the most part, when it comes to this subject of dating, even if you don't always agree, I say it's pretty good to have a husband with an opinion. He's usually right.
Putting all this thought and care into our dating opinion doesn't mean our kids will always listen to us, or that they'll do everything right. But both parent's perspectives are needed, and care and concern should go into how we approach this subject early on.